How I Gave Up Fast Fashion and Became the Conscious Lifestyle Advocate “Ethically Kate”

How I Gave Up Fast Fashion and Became the Conscious Lifestyle Advocate “Ethically Kate”

If a year ago, someone told me that I would be self-employed as an ethical blogger and Instagram influencer, I’d politely tell them to shut the front door. Yet, I find myself sitting in my home office (which looks like a bunting explosion), four minutes walk from the beach, writing about what I love most (ethical fashion), and making a (small) living from it. Pinch me. How the eff did I end up here?!

This is a question I not only ask myself but get asked on a somewhat regular basis. To this question, I reply: “I literally have no idea”. But when I think about it for a moment longer, I know exactly how this came to be.

My eco journey began from the very get-go. I grew up learning never to take anything for granted, to be thrifty with what you have, and to give more than you take. As my dad is a vet, our lives seemed to revolve around animals, and our family was hardly ever found in front of a TV. Much to my sister’s dismay (she was a bit of a princess) we were always out and about on hikes, in the ocean, or spending time with friends. I can’t remember staying in anything but a tent until I was on my honeymoon last year!

I’ve always been a big fan of the outdoors and enjoying nature to the fullest. I was part of the wildflower society from a young age, and dad let me fill half our garden with flower beds, so I could lie down in them and watch them grow. Dad and I were the resident vegetable gardeners, and the feeling of being able to eat beans straight off the vine is like a kid waking up on Christmas Day. Mum still collects rubbish on her daily dog walks, and our family compost bin has always been thriving. But it was my experience overseas that really set off my passion. 

In 2005, my dad travelled to Mongolia, came back, and said: “Alright fam, let’s go!” My parents hauled three kids to Mongolia; the exact opposite of New Zealand, our home country. It’s a third world, inland, nomadic based society, with only one city, Ulaanbaatar. We lived there for two years. I was just nine years old, and my eyes were opened a lot, in a short amount of time. I found myself teaching English in the Gobi Desert to a class of 30 other nine-year-olds, travelling in old Russian vans through nomadic land with dad on work trips, and playing with the street dogs and local kids who knew zero English.

By the time I came back from Mongolia, I was 10, though most thought I was at least 16. I’d seen too much to feel at home in my own country, and suddenly knew I had a global community who couldn’t speak up. I wanted to do the speaking for them.

In August 2016, I watched The True Cost documentary, and that was it. The next morning, a switch had flicked. My love of fashion had merged with my desire to speak up for those who can’t. I never do things half-heartedly. So, I didn’t.

I began by looking at the clothes that I had. I felt frustrated; I think there were even tears as I looked at the purchases I had made over the years, and thought of the people who made them. Initially, I wanted to throw my whole wardrobe out; the guilt was too much. But, knowing that would be the most unsustainable act, I slowly began replacing and adding things that I needed or missed, with fair-trade and ethically-made garments. 

Related Post: Ethical Fashion 101: The Top 5 Ethical Fashion Issues in the Fashion Industry

I’ve never been good at social media. Heck, I hate selfies. But using my personal Instagram, I started to tag the clothes I was wearing, and thank the company and people who made them. I’m a very passionate and loud person, so I would shout my appreciation from the rooftops. Slowly, people started to listen to what I was wearing and saying. Brands began seeing and feeling my true gratitude and passion for clothes made by people who were proud of their jobs and were paid well for it.

The Instagram tagging and rooftop shoutouts turned into official requests to review products, write guest blogs, and support ethical fashion companies officially. I never thought anything of it. Every time someone approached me, I would beam with enthusiasm and feel absolutely honoured- I still do!

After about six months of this, I started to realise my spare time, downtime, rest time, time with my husband, and even sleep time, was filled with product pictures, writing articles, reviews, research, and email admin. Meanwhile, my day job as ‘Office Culture and Marketing Coordinator’ involved commuting over two hours a day. The work I was doing in the ethical world (mainly for free) was increasing dramatically, and my body was starting to nudge me to slow down. 

Something had to give, and it surely wasn’t going to be ethical fashion. So, I quit my job. I started an in-home childcare company on the side, which now involves managing 16+ employees, and ethical fashion writing and advocacy became one of my main gigs. This didn’t happen out of a “Hey, I really want to be an ethical fashion writer and brand advocate” thought. Instead, it grew from my love of fashion, and genuine desire to make sure everyone in the world feels fulfilled, valued, and respected in their jobs, and that the planet is looked after in the process too.

Related Post: How to Make Time to Live More Sustainably

My ethical fashion and living journey has only just begun. As cliché as it sounds, it’s why I wake up in the morning. I live a wanna-be zero-waste lifestyle, my moon cup is my best friend, and when I walk into local restaurants I’m asked about natural contraceptive methods by the waitresses.

I live and breathe to promote a more sustainable way of living because, at the heart of it all, I think our planet and its people are too beautiful to waste.

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